Not so long ago, my days were passing in a great rush; I was squeezed in between an agenda full of appointments and to-dos and the feeling of not being enough. It was not so long ago that panic and anxiety had become my default inner state. Life was like a long run, and every single minute mattered. Being busy and telling everyone that I was busy was a badge of honor. It was difficult to focus on the moment and not worry about fulfilling commitments. Fear of missing out (FOMO) was the main guide; the more I am involved in things, the better it is. Then one day it all collapsed, and health became more important than everything else.
Meditation entered my life on one of my darkest days, when I was drowning in racing thoughts. I didn’t even realize back then that I was burned out from constant, unending to-dos and unfinished projects. Thanks to it, I am back in harmony.
When I talk to many people who are not familiar with meditation, a common response that I receive is “I cannot do nothing for 5 minutes, it is not for me.”, “It is boring.” or “I don’t feel the effect.” From personal experience, it takes time to feel the benefit of meditation, and it is just a muscle that develops through practice. But what exactly is meditation, and how should someone start meditating?
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that trains the mind and helps to achieve a state of focused attention and inner calmness. In the eastern world, it has been practiced for thousands of years, and in recent decades, meditation has also become popular in the western world. The scientific effect has been studied in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and the benefits are highlighted.
The main goal of meditation is to provide a heightened level of awareness to gain profound insight into thoughts. Meditation can be developed over time, just like any other muscle skill. Over time, people can develop control over their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, calm their bodies, and improve their concentration.
“Zen” is the Japanese word for meditation. The aim is to reach enlightenment and awareness in the long term through continuous meditation. It is the nature of humankind to ponder existential questions like “Why are we here?”Why are we born?” and “What is death?”Zen helps to resolve these uncertainties by achieving inner peace and accepting things the way they are.
Types of Meditation
There are different types of meditation, which can be categorized as guided versus unguided meditation. In other words, breathing exercises can be done under the guidance of an instructor or freely.
Breathing meditation: Focusing on breathing. There are different techniques such as inhaling and exhaling naturally, or inhaling, holding, exhaling, holding. Research shows that breathing has a positive impact on your heart rate, reducing the blood pressure and relaxing the muscles. According to experts, breathing meditation is a type of medicine without any side effects. Here is a guided breathing meditation.
Body Scan: A meditation method where a person mentally scans all the body parts to sense possible pain or tension in the body. Furthermore body scan reinforces the emotional to physical connection in a body. It is important to note that relaxation is not the ultimate goal of body scan. It is a practice of being aware of sensory experiences. Research shows that regularly practicing body scan would help to calm anxiety, sooth down stress and get in control of bodily sensations. Click to read more about body scan meditation.
Transcendental Meditation: It is a mantra-based meditation based on focusing on a single word. This is one of the beginner’s meditations which is done effortlessly compared to other types of meditation. According to a study in 2018, transcendental meditation had a positive influence on mental health after being practiced for 12 weeks.
Nature Walking Meditation: Mindful walking in nature, paying attention to the environment with a non-judgemental approach may have benefits to health. It can be in the garden, forest, forest or beach. The purpose is not to reach from A to B but just to be present, feel yourself, your body and the surroundings. Appreciate the beauty of how things are while wandering freely in nature. Here is a guided meditation for nature walking.
Loving-kindness Meditation (Metta): The word “metta” means showing positive energy and kindness to yourself and others. This meditation was found in Northern India and is a practice to harvest inner kindness. During the meditation, a person repeats positive phrases toward the target. For instance, to a difficult person in your life, you might repeat “I am sending my love to X”. The goal is to increase unconditional positive emotions, which are appreciation, compassion, gratitude, love, and joy.
Some other examples of the Metta mantra are;
(1) “May I be happy, may I be healthy”.
(2) “May he be happy, may he be healthy”.
(3) “May I be relieved.”
Here is a guided loving kindness meditation.
Mindfulness has recently become popular; it is a nonjudgmental reaction to the present. The key is to attend to the present and to bodily feelings. Mindfulness is an old technique that became a mental health practice in the 1970s. Mindfulness is effective not only to fix mental health but also to gain the skill to concentrate in the world of too much.
Approximately 40 years ago, American molecular biology scientists led the development of a new intervention for psychological practice. The interventions are Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) which were effective on stress-related mental disorders.
Today, we live in a world of too much. The information flow speeds up multiple times as fast as in previous decades. A day in the western world is full of distractions that our minds are competing with, switching from one task to another. Mindfulness meditation is an effective practice that trains the mind to stay attentive to the moment.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditating regularly has benefits in the long term. It is scientifically proven to help with sleep problems and improve sleep quality. Furthermore, it is proven to reduce daily stress and help accept and manage chronic pain. Finally, regular meditation has positive effects on improving focus, increasing compassion, improving the ability to cope with other emotions, and facilitating other positive emotions.
Research shows that meditation also has other positive effects, such as improving self-esteem. Through meditation, we can learn how to communicate properly with one another and end the destructive cycle of negative self-talk. Here is a guided meditation to work on self-esteem.
The benefits of mindfulness is also researched in the field of neuroscience and it has shown that regularly practicing mindfulness is effective to enhance the parts of the brain that are involved in emotional regulation, awareness.
Depression is often triggered by stress and anxiety. Meditation helps train the brain to achieve focus when a person is immersed in negative emotions. Brain research indicates that the regions that are related to depression, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala, are altered through constant meditation.
Meditation is scientifically proven to be effective in achieving inner harmony. Through regular practice it can provide profound benefits to overall wellbeing. There are various types of meditation such as mindfulness, breathing, body scan, transcendental, and nature walking meditation, each offering unique advantages. There are also long term long-term benefits of meditation, including improved sleep, reduced stress, and better emotional regulation. In conclusion, meditation is presented as a powerful practice with numerous physical, mental, and emotional advantages, fostering a healthier and happier life through dedication and patience.